I’m slacking on blogging in general, but I’m trying to keep up with these monthly lists. Maybe I can turn things around on the blog front in May!
What I learned in April
Ruthlessly eliminate hurry. Our small group book this “semester” is John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping, and I highly recommend it. He basically distills lots of Dallas Willard into more understandable and palatable language. He quotes Dallas as saying that the most important spiritual practice of our time is to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” In April, we went on two (TWO!) vacations, and they were both wonderful. The second one was sans kiddos, and, as my friend Heidi says, “vacations with kids are trips, not vacations.” I have to agree, although it was great to get away with the kids, as well. Grant and I were reflecting at the end of the month that the best thing about both weeks was the lack of schedule. The kids are going to different schools this year in different directions, so it makes for lots of car time. We’re only letting one kid at a time play a sport/participate in an activity, so we don’t even have that kind of craziness on our plates right now. And yet. We feel like we’re almost constantly rushing from one thing to the next. Vacation was so relaxing because there weren’t any schedules or “have tos.” We try to set aside Sundays as our Sabbath, to be mostly without schedules, which is so helpful and necessary. I’m learning that we need to incorporate more “mini-Sabbaths” during the rest of the week, where we put up boundaries around our time at home where we focus on time together or on our own rather than the never-ending to do list. Too much of our days are structured (much of which is unavoidable between work, school, and volunteer schedules), which requires us to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” during the time that isn’t already spoken for.
Reading as therapy. I listened to this podcast with Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy) about how she works, and she talked about how she devotes at least two hours every day around 2pm to reading because she has noticed that her energy ebbs during that time for much of anything more mentally strenuous. Now, I mentioned this in my 2015 wrap-up post, and she has a book blog, so technically reading is part of her day job. But I’m realizing that life runs more smoothly for me when I have a few different books that I’m reading (I usually like something spiritual, something fiction, and something practical to be reading at the same time so that I’m sure to have a book depending on what mood I’m in). This article backs me up – and also helps my book-buying budget because my new refrain will be, “but it’s cheaper than therapy!”
Easter lasts 50 days. I grew up Catholic, so I knew this at some point but re-learned it this month. The season of Easter is 50 days long, and Lent is only 40. I love that the church calendar says we should spend even more time celebrating than we did preparing.
Learning is worth modeling – and is a good excuse for some me time. I love this practice of writing down what I’m learning because it really helps me to feel like I am moving forward, even during weeks or months when it seems like I’m just spinning my wheels. My friend Laura told me about how she puts her earbuds in, especially when she needs a little quiet at home, and tells her kids not to bother her when her earbuds are in because she’s learning. Umm genius. I have totally stolen that when I get to that point in the day when I need some time in my own head (seriously, how can two relatively small humans be SO LOUD?!), and it totally works. But I’ve also noticed a side benefit: they have started to use it as an excuse too! I’ll find them reading or playing some made-up game, and they’ll tell me, “we’re learning – we’ll be there in a minute!”
Reading out loud as a family has all sorts of benefits. We have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia as a family. This is our first “big” book that we have dug into as a family, and we’re all loving it (so much so that most of our new chicks are named after Narnia characters!). Reading out loud to kids has been proven to create better outcomes in children of all ages, but we’re loving it because of the shared experience of reading a story Grant and I loved as children together. Grant reads to all of us because he does the best voices (and with this pod as inspiration), and the rest of us color, draw, or do a puzzle. We’ve been doing this on Sunday mornings, and depending on the morning, the kids usually last 45 minutes – an hour before they get squirrelly. We’ve noticed that, if we give them a quiet activity to do while we read, they last longer. I also have to be coloring or doodling, so that my mind doesn’t wander. More tips for younger children here, and here are some lists we plan to use once we finish Narnia. (As a bonus, we notice that some reading time as a family has the same benefits for all us that I’ve noticed for myself mentioned above!)
What I’m loving
Tangling. Grant gave me this book for my birthday last year, but I sorta lost it in the move, only to rediscover it this month. I’ve been practicing in it during our family reading sessions, but find myself practicing throughout the rest of the week too. I’ve never been a great artist, but it has been fun to try this form of somewhat structured doodling. I’ve always been a doodler (it helps me stay focused in meetings, during church, etc.), but now I feel like my doodling is a bit prettier. My next step: practicing hand lettering (inspiration here and here – and this just for fun!)
Pray As You Go app. Pray As You Go is an app and podcast produced by a group of Jesuits in Great Britain. They are about ten-ish minutes of guided prayer, and I’ve been listening to them in the shower to start the day. They typically start off with a song, then a scripture reading, some questions, then repeat the scripture reading, and end with prayer. I’m sorta obsessed, especially with the mostly British accents. It’s so easy and such a great way to start the day (or re-center the day if you’d prefer not to listen first thing in morning). I prefer the app because it is so super simple (and has some fun extras depending on the church season), but they have a podcast as well.
The Robcast. I’ve been in the midst of a deep dive into the Rob Bell podcasts this month (I got behind, so I’ve been listening to tons of them lately). All of these were so stuffed full of good stuff that I plan to re-listen to all of them:
- Rob’s interview with Richard Rohr. I had to stop writing notes during this one because I felt like I was just re-writing everything Rohr said. So. Many. Good. Questions!
- Rob’s interview with Krista Tippett. If there is a voice better suited for radio than Tippett’s, I haven’t heard it. I can’t wait to read her new book after listening to this, and I loved how genuinely excited Rob was to have her on the show. I can’t imagine anything sweeter as a writer than to hear the kind of enthusiasm Rob had for Krista’s book.
- Seeds and Switches. This made SO MUCH sense to me, and now I want to talk about it. Please listen, and then come over so we can chat about it.
- The Thing That Didn’t Happen in Miami. I loved Rob’s humility and vulnerability in this one – and it was just a great story.
- Good vs perfect: Grant keeps joking that I might have to get a tattoo with tôv on it because I talk about it so much.
Greens in the gardens. We let Maeve plant a bed of greens about six-ish weeks ago, and we’ve been eating lots of lunches and dinners straight out of the garden lately. It’s so much easier to eat well when it tastes this good, and it’s right outside your back door.
Chicken watching. We finally got some chickens and chicks this month, and we are obsessed. Our new favorite evening activity is to just sit outside and watch them. I assume this novelty will wear off at some point, but for now, we are having so much fun with them. I’m so glad we didn’t wait until we had researched everything to the nth degree and went ahead and jumped in.